Restaurateur fears for St Ives

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A leading St Ives restaurateur has hit out at the decision to allow Pizza Express to open in the town.

Onshore owner David Graham fears Pizza Express’ arrival could signal an influx of other national food and drink retailers entering St Ives, which, he fears, could spoil its “unique personality”.

He says his opposition to the Pizza Expresses of the world is not about fear of competition, but instead about preserving the  focused ‘think local and buy local’ ethos that, he claims, virtually all of the restaurants, bars and food and drink shops in the town currently have.

“St Ives has developed a wonderful reputation across the UK for being truly unspoiled by mass-market tourism,” Graham said. “As a result this has seen the popularity of the town grow, making it open for business all year round and loved by both UK and overseas visitors alike – even in what are currently economically challenging times.

“Today, the town itself has a truly diverse range of eating and drinking establishments, from small teashops, café’s and takeaway’s, to bars, pubs and restaurants. And whilst we are all competing with each other, the vast majority of us have one very strong thing in common – we use, promote and support our local food and drink suppliers wherever we can.

“I don’t think any of us are frightened of competition – which is borne out by the fact that there are well over 40 restaurants trading in the town every day. But I think you have to ask yourself what value a national chain like Pizza Express is going to bring to St Ives?

“Will Pizza Express be sourcing its ingredients from local suppliers like our restaurants and bars do now? No. What will happen is that its goods will arrive almost daily on a lorry from a national distribution centre, having travelled hundreds of miles to St Ives to service a restaurant that would have been created and fitted by a team of contractors from out of the county and a management team that has been brought in.”

11 COMMENTS

  1. I live in the same century as all of you. The only difference is, I am not blinkered by my own business in the same way as you all and am able to see the big picture. I have worked in, and even managed establishments in St Ives so feel that I am able to impart my opinion with some degree of authority.

    IF Pizza Express move into the vacant Woolies building, the effect they will have on the town will be no different to if an independent restaurant moved into the town. Increased rents, continued extortion of tourists (and therefore locals) and a continued lack of any shop of real value for the locals without having to go further afield to Penzance or even Truro. If I were you, I would be thankful that it is (a relatively) higher quality of chain than if it had been a Wetherspoons or Pizza hut or similar as their prices will be similar to that of the businesses already in St Ives rather than offering a cheaper alternative.

    What St Ives is crying out for is a restaurant or pub to come in and offer a more value orientated proposition, so that the locals of the area are able to enjoy the town more often.

    Richard: The Symons family have their fingers in many pies. In fact I believe a yet another Symons restaurant will be opening on the harbour front before Easter.

    G: No I do not believe that you have to originate from St Ives to care about it and those people who live and work there? Caring for, and doing the best thing for can be completely distinct ideals. As for St Ives being an all year round town, I know of plenty of establishments that close or cut down to skeleton staff and opening hours in the Winter. It is the high rents caused by the influx of eateries and galleries that are causing the lack of useful local stores such as Whites and Woolies used to offer.

    David: The lack of staff turnover might be more adequately explained by the lack of a real alternative to working within the dreaded 3Cs. Plenty of people I have spoken to are not happy with their wage or the pitiful hours they are offered in the winter. In the summer, it is just as bad, as establishments prefer to save money and utilise youngsters or backpackers. I maintain that there is a lack of competition in St Ives. Pretty much every establishment utilises the same few suppliers and offer similar products at a similar price to the other. They can get away with it in the summer because every where is full.

  2. I am sadly not a resident of St Ives, but consider the town a haven away from the pressures of the rat race life, working for a fast moving, corporate food manufacturing business in Yorkshire. Whenever I get to St Ives, my expectation of the dining experience of the stay, is that I will be shedding the weekly drudge of anonymous food service offering, and that whilst I am enjoying the beautiful views of St Ives/Cornwall in general, and that I can also make no connection to the generic offering I may think acceptable at home. I expect and love my food in St Ives to be just short of running/swimming alive onto my plate.

    That said, there may be an inevitability about the the mults recognising the town as a key target area, this may be difficult to push back against given their financial clout – Pizza Express may be just one of many, including the multiple retailers in Convenience format, who have recently announced ambitious plans for expansion. I think however that my experience to date in St Ives, is that provided current independent restaurant/pub/bar owners recognise and develop their clear point of difference – publicise local sourcing (‘Field to Fork’ – type credentials), low food miles (vs long supply chain for mults), differentiation (menu rotation for seasons and key dates) , talent in customer service, local knowledge etc. etc, these guys will win out, regardless of entry of Pizza Express. Diversify, keep it local, and conquer. I think you can all live alongside each other.

  3. I am astonished by the comments posted by T! What Century is he/ she living in? I am in total agreement with Richard and G too. As a business owner who also didn’t ” originate” from St Ives, I employ only local people, buy produce from only local suppliers and am proud and happy to invest time and money into the town. Most if not all businesses in the town pay reasonably to well, a fact evidenced by the lack of staff attrition/ churn, employment conditions are equal to if not better than National chains and operate all year round even if that means losing money in the Winter.
    As for a lack of competition in St Ives…get your facts right!

  4. Just a question for T

    Do you think you have to originate from St Ives to care about it and those people who live and work there? I moved to St Ives as a child, and despite moving away, have always called it home. 30 years ago, the town shut its doors in October, hoteliers and business owners went onto the dole and awaited the arrival of Spring, or hoped the money they earned in 16 weeks of business would see them through.

    St Ives today is a destination that is open all year round and has provided year round employment for people who live in the town and yes those who have made the town and surrounding areas their home. The point is T – these people are all giving things back to the town through business with other local businesses, year round employment, investment in services.

    Have house prices got higher – absolutely yes they have – has it priced people out of the property market – unfortunately yes it has, have people in the town – both those who have ORIGINATED from it and those who have chosen to live and work there benefited from St Ives being a year round destination – absolutely. People have been given opportunities in the last few years with the rise of the town’s popularity they never previously had.

    It would seem from your comment T that you would be happier stepping back 30 years to a time when we shut down for 6 months and you had to be Cornish to live in St Ives – good plan – ever tried paying the mortgage on the dole T, that’s even harder.

    The point is that St Ives is still a community – of people who have been born there and those who haven’t – that works together. People I went to primary school (and who originated from the town T) have opened businesses and are running them successfully – lets ask them what they think about the outsiders.

  5. T, you want to get your facts straight, my maths aint brilliant but I reckon the Symonds own around 8 eateries and I know there are around 45 in the town.
    I’m not sure how much they pay, but us “outsiders” employ around 40 local people at very good rates of pay, way above the minimum wage, we also buy all our produce from Cornwall, a majority are from companies based in St. Ives maybe us “outsiders ” aren’t so bad for the town after all.

  6. 3 out of the 5 comments on this article before this have been from people who do not originate from St Ives.

    Outsiders moving in as well as people making second homes are just as detrimental to St Ives. It is the high rent which has become inflated from this influx that will continue to cause local businesses to suffer, rather than the introduction of chains.

    Is there also THAT much competition in St Ives as it is? Everyone know that half of the pubs and restaurants are owned by the Symons family who are able to collude and keep prices high and pay low as it is.

  7. I have been fortunate enough to be in business in St. Ives for thirteen years. The reason I chose to live in St. ives, start a new business and raise a family was because St. Ives, to me, was a unique and charming town with an eclectic mix of independently run shops, restaurants and cafes as well as working artists, a thriving fishing industry, local characters and of course the surf and the outstanding natural beauty of its beaches and coastline. A magical place to live and work in and somewhere to be proud of. Back then I had no idea that St Ives would eventually be invaded by the ‘Big Brand National Super Chains’ that threaten to diminish the very special identity St Ives has always had.
    It is extremely saddening when I hear about another local business that has failed after years of hard work and successful trading. The closure of shops and restaurants is happening more frequently, and in times of a recession, in a town heavily reliant on tourism, it seems ludicrous to let the National brands clone our beautiful town, taint its quaint image and in turn ruin many local livelihoods. Do the holiday makers that chose to visit our town each year really want to spend time around all the brand names they spend most of their lives surrounded by? Will any of the National chains I refer to support local suppliers, manufacturers, tradesman and in some cases, even employees? It will be an invasion on a massive scale.
    These days I find it difficult to picture the idyllic St Ives of years gone by and the place so cherished by its inhabitants and the tourists that visit year after year. We are in danger of becoming another victim of corporate cloning. Let’s get together as a community and support local business before there are none left.

  8. Like most businessmen in St.Ives, the rumours that have circulated for years of the impending arrival of a corporation size multinational, bring fear not of competition but of the loss of identity of which the town is famed for.

    A town awash with apathy will greet the arrival of yet another restaurant, with little thought of its lack of reward to the community. The arrival of more jobs in the town as an argument for, is a shady one. Pizza Express have a penchant for hiring Mediterranean looking waitresses and chefs, which leaves St.Ives with very few suitable applicants. I hope they prove me wrong on this otherwise there really is no benefit to their arrival.

    I run a business in the town that hires, buys and spends locally, thus recycling money through the community. Davids point about the procurement of produce and labour from out of the town for the running of our newest friend on the seafront is an environmental and an economical one. A massive Carbon footprint from daily deliveries from as far away as Bristol and an outflow of revenue are two things that will only harm the town.

    Local Council have tried their hardest but it seems that an endless appeal system will see the decision carried to truro and then perhaps to Bristol where the inevitable will be passed.

    Lets hope people can see through the excitement of the arrival of a shiny new eatery and weigh up the cost to the town.

  9. I absolutely agree with David. There is no other place in the UK like St Ives it’s unique higgeldy piggeldy cobbled streets and individual restaurants; bars and retail outlets and wonderful galleries need to be preserved. Through-out the year it attracts different types of holidaymakers depending on the season and the only people that will honestly want a Pizza Express in this beautiful town are the holiday makers on a budget willing to split a pizza between a family of 6 who may eat out once during their whole holiday.

    Most of these unique businesses are run by local families looking to provide an idylic environment to holidaymakers and I’m sure feel absolutely aghast that such a large commercial business could infultrate this local community. I’m sure Rick Stein wouldn’t allow this in Padstow so why should the local community in St Ives be subjected to such capitalism. I’m all for progress but this move will snuff out many local businesses in St Ives and have such a negative effect on the people of St Ives and their community.

    Those councillors that have approved this move really have no idea how to manage such a delicate community. I am appalled. Somebody stand up and stop this now!!!!

  10. I am all for progress but this is not my view of it. We came to lovely St Ives to get away from urban rubbish, and St ives gave us that in buckets and spades. The thought of the town becoming some big brand, non local investment High Street does not appeal. Just look at what’s happened to Newquay! It’s a pale shadow of its former self, and it’ll take many years to recover its former glory.

    I agree with David, and worry about the long term individuality of such an amazing place as St Ives. Potentially…such a shame, and typical short term thinking by those that know little better.

  11. I have to agree with David. I’ve moved to St Ives from Ludlow, Shropshire which was voted a “Slow City” and resisted any encroachment from large chains like Pizza Express. I hope this is not the thin end of the wedge. What’s to stop this massive chain under cutting all the local establishments to reduce the “competition”? I quite understand the arguement for jobs but I fear this is a short sighted decision that i hope the council does not live to regret. Time and time again town councils accross the UK have sacrifced what made the place what it was in pursuit of higher business rates which eventually only nationals and charities could afford.

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